Surrounded by buildings on three sides, this five storey apartment building is located on a quiet street in the Hellenic quarter of Brăila, Romania. Within the immediate vicinity and on the same street lies Manea Kella’s award winning project, Casa Popeea Boutique Hotel. The building will serve as an extension to the hotel and is located just a few metres away from Casa Popeea, offering eight serviced apartments including a top floor penthouse with two large terraces.
The site opens to the city only on its East elevation. The vacant property currently present on site is in an advanced state of disrepair that warrants demolition – our aim is to preserve fragments of the façade in whichever way possible, whilst recognising the structural implications of this task to be complex. Thus, the design aims to retain and consolidate parts of the existing front and side façades and only rebuild where necessary. Existing materials salvaged from the demolition such as Ottoman bricks and Dobrogean limestone will be reused.
Striving to build on the local vernacular, the architecture retains the approximate footprint of the existing building and uses a vocabulary of commonly found elements in Brăila such as the plinth, the primary façade, the secondary façade, the courtyard, as well as some other Romanian vernacular elements such as the carved openings that provide the building with a sculptural quality. The design required an efficient and coherent strategy to solve issues around the complexities of an infill site, poor daylighting, seismicity, as well as planning restrictions such as building height, land occupancy coefficients and tight volumetric regulations, typical of the Brăila Historic City Centre Conservation Area SIR 1.
A reduced palette of materials relies mostly on stone to complement the stone plinth of the existing building, to soften the hardness of the retained brick façade and to allude to the region’s vernacular stone constructions.
The environmental strategy is paramount to this project with windcatchers from the Islamic world forming part of an in depth study. These traditional architectural elements provide natural ventilation and passive cooling using the Venturi effect. Lightwells and hanging gardens have been designed to ventilate from the basement upwards. Cross ventilation within the dwellings is also possible due to voids to both front and rear of the building.
We believe that infill buildings such as this could form part of a densification strategy of Brăila’s city centre, since the built heritage is rich albeit in a pronounced state of disrepair and neglect. Economic recovery of the surrounding area, including Piața Traian and the grand Strada Mihai Eminescu could in part be possible with the improvement of the housing stock, thereby making the area more attractive to young families.
The project is located in a Conservation Area.